In this next chapter in our series, we are covering the states of the Southwest: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

Southwest United States Runaway Laws

Every day, we get messages, phone calls, and chats from youth who ask, “Can I move out at 17,” “Am I allowed to move out of my parent’s house,” Or,“I need to leave my house.”

Youth in crisis looking for answers to their concerns turn to us for information. In order to maintain our mission to keep runaway youth safe and off the street, we have developed this blog series on runaway laws by state. This is to provide information on the consequences of running away on youth.

In this next chapter in our series, we are covering the states of the Southwest: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

*Our main source of information is the comprehensive report, Alone Without A Home: A State-By-State Review of Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth, created by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

*DISCLAIMER: We are not legal experts. Laws can be interpreted differently from county to county and police jurisdiction to police jurisdiction. Everyone’s situation is unique, but we are here 24/7 to help you figure out a plan for your specific situation. For information, please call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit us at 1800RUNAWAY.org.

Oklahoma Age of a minor: In Oklahoma, a minor is defined as any unmarried person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: This is defined as “any unemancipated minor who is voluntarily absent from the home without a compelling reason, without the consent of a guardian, and without the guardian’s knowledge of the child’s whereabouts.”

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not a status offense to run away from home in Oklahoma. Runaways can be taken into custody without a warrant by a peace officer or by an employee of the juvenile court. The peace officer or court employee shall then release the youth into the custody of the youth’s guardian, or detain the youth if necessary to protect the youth’s well-being and deliver the youth to the court for proceedings and placement.

Can a youth file for emancipation: YesAccording to the statute, a minor can file a petition in the district court of the county in which they live stating that they have lived in that county for over a year before filing. They will then be given a court date to receive a ruling on their petition.

Texas  Age of a minor: In Texas, a minor is defined as “any person under 18 years of age.”

Runaway status: According to Texas law, there is no specific classification for runaway youth in the state. Runaway youth may fall into the category of a “child in need of supervision (CHIN).” This is defined as a child who voluntarily leaves a home without parental consent for an extended length of time.

Is running away a status offense: Yes. Texas defines running away as a status offense. A court can then order the youth be returned to their guardian, into foster care, or be placed into an institution.

Can a youth file for emancipation: Yes. A youth can petition the court in the county in which they live to “have the disabilities of minority removed for limited or general purposes if the minor is (a) a resident of the state, (b) 17 years of age or at least 16 years of age living separately from a guardian, and (c) self-supporting and managing his/her financial affairs.”

Southwest States and Their Runaway Laws

New Mexico  Age of a minor: This is defined as any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: There is not a specific definition, but runaways can be classified under as a “child of a family in need of services.” In this case, the child would have been absent from the guardian’s home for a more than 24 hours without permission.

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not a status offense in New Mexico. In the case of a youth running away, if law enforcement receives a report, they may return the child to the parent or guardian, hold the child for up to 6 hours if the guardian cannot be located, or place the child into custody.

Can a youth file for emancipation: Yes. A youth over the age of 16 can petition the children’s court in the county in which they live. Any person 16 years or older can be declared emancipated if the minor has been living outside of their guardian’s home, is managing their financial affairs, and is deemed to be necessary for the youth’s safety.

Arizona Age of a minor: A minor is any person that is under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: There is not a specification under the law for runaway youth, but they can be classified as an “incorrigible child.” According to the law, these youth are “children who are adjudicated to be beyond their parents’/guardians’/ custodians’ control, are habitually truant from school, commit status offenses, disobey court orders, or habitually behave in such a manner as to injure or endanger the morals or health of themselves or others.” In addition, “an incorrigible child may be subject to treatment, counseling, special education, special supervision, and protection.”

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not a status offense. According to the law, “runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. The police officer must return the youth to the custody of the youth’s guardian or transfer custody of the youth to the juvenile court.”

Can a youth file for emancipation: Yes. A youth can petition for emancipation if she is at least 16 years old, is an Arizona resident, is financially self-sufficient, is not currently a ward of the state, and understands the rights and obligations of an emancipated youth.

Runaway Laws in Southwestern Laws

As our series on runaway laws continues, you may begin to notice how the laws differ from state to state. It is important to understand what your state considers to be a runaway youth, and how the authorities are required to respond when locating a runaway youth. Please continue to follow this series as we cover the remaining state laws.

We hope you found this helpful. For more information, you can reach us at 1800RUNAWAY.org, on our chat page, on email, visit our forum, or text at 66008.

Related Articles: Are you living in a different state? Find your state and the related information below:

Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho

Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana

West Virginia, Virginia, North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida

Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania

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